Submissive and Feminist - Contradiction
Copyright 1997, “Screamer”
All Rights Reserved
(The following article was published in the SandMUtopian Guardian in 1998.)
The following letter was written
to Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women in
1996. It took three submissions of the letter, and a threat to not
renew my membership to get a response to the following dissertation, about
how NOW has continually contradicted itself, and it’s views of a “pure
feminism” to come out against S&M a number of times.
Dear Patricia, and Esteemed Board Members,
Imagine my surprise.
I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember, going so far as to work with NOW, and an abortion clinic in trying to get a new reproductive health facility in the Quad Cities, where I used to live that would perform abortions for local and rural women. I carried the presidency of our local chapter of NOW for awhile, and felt myself completely and utterly devoted to the feminist cause.
And now, after careful scrutinization, I find that my own sexual lifestyle has been called into question. That, after all of the belief, and work, and time and energy I devoted to the feminist cause, believing in it wholeheartedly, I discover that, while it’s fine for a woman to love another woman, it’s not fine for my own boyfriend to tie me up and spank me if it’s what we both want and enjoy.
I am a female submissive.
I’m not entirely sure why NOW chooses to believe that consensual, loving SM goes against the grain of what the feminist regime believes. Being a member of that regime for many years, and still considering myself a feminist, I learned a great deal about what I call the ‘feminist philosophy’. The way I learned it, and understood it, was simply this: A woman has as much right to her own sexual identity, professional identity and spiritual identity as any man has. What ever we choose to believe in, as an independent, sure, strong woman, was what we brought to the table as a feminist, and what we shared with our sisters in the struggle for equal rights, and freedom over our own bodies. The freedom to carry or abort a pregnancy. The freedom to lay down with another woman. The freedom to have access to birth control - to construction jobs - to political office. The freedom to choose what we felt in our hearts was right for us.
You will stand up and fight for the right of a woman to have an abortion. But you won’t stand up and acknowledge that a woman can do as she pleases behind her own bedroom doors? The way that I see it, as long as the activity is consensual - as long as the parties behind those doors are adults and mature enough to decide for themselves what makes them orgasm and what makes them feel spiritually whole, that particular woman is simply acting upon what makes her feel like a complete and total woman, and is, indeed exercising her feminism in the highest regard.
I have seen the arguments against female submissions. How the act itself sets us back 40 years, and detracts from all the work the so-called ‘true feminists’ have attained. How it promotes male violence against women. How the so-called ‘trade’ magazines depict women in a less-than-human light. How the desire for such activities surely declares that we, as woman, have been trained to want these things.
I’m doing what my nature, my female spirit, tells me to do. I’m not acting as my mother, and my grandmother did, out of a sense of obligation, out of a sense of not having any other options, out of a sense of it being my only place in this world. I am submissive to only specific, well chosen people. I choose who I submit to, as wholly as you choose who you sleep with. I am a dominant creature in my career, in my family, in my feminist work. But when I get home at night, I choose to submit. Is this going against everything I’ve been taught? Does this make me any less of a feminist? Does it detract from my pro-choice work, my gay/lesbian work, my equal rights work? Does it take away from my woman-of-the-nineties persona?
But you say that it does.
You, in the position of power of the feminist movement. You, who are our leaders, our teachers, our mentors. You, who preach the role of feminism in this society. Yet, you leave out, or admonish those of us who enjoy the freedom to give up that freedom. Where is the social justice in that? Where is the commonality? The equilibrium? The fairness? It is strangely missing, and it’s absence not only weakens our position as the ‘people of choice’, it lessens our capability to get our points across in a sane and articulate manner.
Am I any less a feminist because I enjoy being tied to a bed?
Are you any less a woman if you choose to love another woman?
Are you any less a mother if you choose to abort a pregnancy after carrying six?
Are you any less a woman of color if one of your parents are white?
All four questions can be answered with a resounding ‘NO !!!’, however, you choose to toss those of us who revel in our sexual submission out of your ranks because you simply don’t agree with our practices?
Isn’t that a contradiction of what feminism is all about?
I say, “Yes, it is.”
The response I finally received was very unsatisfactory. The short letter, from Patricia herself, stated that NOW did not have a policy on SM.
From the letter: “NOW Does not have any policy condemning SM. We are concerned with a woman’s consent and having control over her own body.”
I discovered the quite contrary.
In “Delineation of Lesbian Rights issues 1980”, a NOW resolution states first that:
“NOW does not support the inclusion
of pederasty, pornography,
sadomasochism and public sex as lesbian rights issues, since to do so would violate the feminist principles upon which this organization was founded.”
And then, in a separate resolution of the same year:
“A third non-feminist, non-lesbian
rights issue is sadomasochism. Although sadomasochism is practiced among
a small percentage of the overall population, it has been grossly misrepresented
as an integral part of gay lifestyles. The attempt to identify sadomasochism
as a lesbian and gay rights issue serves primarily to confuse issues and
to thwart the drive for lesbian and gay rights.
Sadomasochists seek to legitimize and provide a premeditated structure for violence. NOW opposes any repressive legislation concerning private consensual sexual activity between adults. Nevertheless, NOW opposes institutionalized violence as well as social structures which encourage or advocate the use of physical and psychological violence or domination among individuals. This opposition to violence precludes support or advocacy of sadomasochism as a feminist issue.”
There is a large movement on
the Internet now which seeks to change NOW’s stand on consensual SM.
There is a web page, dedicated solely to this cause at
If this issue insults your common sense and intelligence as it did mine, please feel free to visit the web page and voice your support.
I did not renew my membership in NOW. SM was a big part of the reason, however, it wasn’t the only reason. The inconsistencies and the bigotry I found, as a result of my SM research within NOW turned me off to the whole thing. I still consider myself a feminist, but I’ve decided that I don’t need the backing of anyone to be able to say that to the world - without fear, without contradiction, without guilt. I just am.
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